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Rhode Island Serial Killer Inspired By 'The Sopranos' Murders And Dismembers Women
Rhode Island detectives searched for three missing women and soon uncovered a serial killer who admitted to having an "uncontrollable urge" for murder.
The cozy, small-town vibe of Woonsocket, Rhode Island was turned upside down in the early months of 2003 by a series of crimes targeting women.
On March 2, Jane Smith was beaten and stabbed after she agreed “to party” with a stranger who’d approached her in his SUV. She survived, but police found no physical evidence at the crime scene. Still, investigators believed they were chasing a man who’d attacked women before, they told “Twisted Killers,” airing Thursdays at 9/8c on Oxygen.
In April, Audrey Harris, 33, was reported missing by her mother. Was she a victim of Smith’s attacker?
Then, a short time later, another woman, Christine Dumont, 42, was violently beaten with a metal pipe.
Smith and Dumont were attacked in the same part of town by a man they each described as blond with a stocky build. Investigators compared notes on the cases and believed it was the same culprit.
“If he is a person who was brutally assaulting prostitutes in the same area over a very short period of time, there’s also a good possibility that he could be responsible for Audrey Harris’ disappearance,” said Gerry Durand, a retired forensic detective with the Woonsocket PD.
Detectives reinterviewed Smith, who recalled a significant detail. Her assailant had withdrawn $100 from an ATM before he attacked her. Security footage at the ATM revealed only one withdrawal of $100. Police identified that man as Timothy Scanlon, who was stocky and blond.
Smith and Dumont both identified Scanlon as their attacker from photo arrays. He was charged with assaults on the two women. He denied any guilt and asked for a lawyer. His defense was that he was with Jane Smith and Christine Dumont in a consensual manner, and that they were assaulted after that, according to former Assistant Attorney General RI, Bethany Macktaz.
The case took a shocking turn on May 3, 2004 in the run-up to the trial. Christine Dumont, who’d been eager to testify, was reported missing by her sister.
Police had no evidence indicating that Scanlon had anything to do with the disappearance. He was eventually convicted on charges related to Smith's attack in 2005, according to court documents.
“We could rule out that it was Timothy Scanlon because we knew his whereabouts during the time of her disappearance,” explained Kyle Stone, a retired Woonsocket PD detective lieutenant.
Investigators learned that she had returned to an area known for prostitution in the city. Was the person behind Dumont’s disappearance also responsible for Harris’ disappearance?
“If it is all connected, there’s another person out there targeting prostitutes,” said Durand.
Then, on July 4, 2004, Stacie Goulet, 24, was reported missing by her boyfriend. He reluctantly admitted to detectives she was a sex worker, according to “Twisted Killers.”
Three women had gone missing within 15 months. To determine if there was a man preying on prostitutes, a female officer posed as a sex worker. The tactic yielded no leads, so investigators shifted to a new line of investigation.
“All three women did frequent the same track or area that was known for prostitution,” said retired LAPD investigator Tracey Benjamin. “Do you have other women on that track that might have been assaulted and survived?”
On July 11, the Woonsocket PD got a phone tip from an anonymous man. The caller told them to speak to Jocelin Martel, who was a sex worker currently in prison, according to "Twisted Killers."
“She told us about an incident that she had with a john,” explained Edward J. Lee Jr., former detective sergeant with the Woonsocket PD. “He brought her back to his apartment … and came up from behind her and choked her.”
Martel managed to fight him off and escaped. She described the house in detail and its whereabouts. Investigators found the home and searched their database to see if other incidents had been reported at the same locale.
One had indeed happened, and involved a known sex worker named Teese Morris, said investigators. Morris told police that on February 15, 2004, a man invited her to the house. He grabbed her from behind and strangled her with his hands, although she managed to escape.
“Pouncing on them, unaware from behind, that’s what he seemed to get a rush out of,” said former NYC prosecutor Beth Karas.
Police identified the lone occupant of the residence as Jeffrey Mailhot. Detectives obtained a search warrant and an arrest warrant for the assaults of Morris and Martel.
Inside the home, investigators found it to be meticulously neat and tidy in most areas. But the bathroom, especially the tub, was filthy. “We could see what was clearly blood spatter,” said an investigator.
When Luminol was applied, areas of the floor indicated the presence of blood.
“If Jeffrey Mailhot is, in fact, a killer, what authorities find in his house is very telling,” said Dr. Kate Termini, a forensic psychologist. “He compartmentalizes. He is likely a highly organized killer.”
Mailhot was interrogated by police and initially denied any guilt. Soon, though, he eventually admitted that he had used sex workers before and had gotten rough with Morris and Martel.
When detectives put the pictures of the three missing women on the table, Mailhot got nervous and eventually crumbled. He admitted coming up on Audrey Harris from behind and choking her.
Afterward, “he said he had an uncontrollable urge to kill again,” said Nowak. He killed Dumont and Goulet the same way.
Investigators asked where the women were. Mailhot’s response: “They’re in garbage bags. I just dumped them in trash containers ... I cut them up … in my bathtub.”
Mailhot had apparently bought a saw for the purpose of dismembering his victims. He was inspired, investigators said, by an episode of ‘The Sopranos.”
Authorities had Mailhot’s confession, but they didn’t have the victims’ bodies. After a seemingly impossible search of the Woonsocket landfill, Goulet’s remains were found on July 27, 2004.
Analysis of blood evidence in Mailhot’s bathroom revealed it was a match for both Dumont and Harris.
Mailhot, then 34, was charged with three counts of murder, along with charges linked to assaults on Martin and Martel. On February 16, 2006, he pleaded guilty to all five counts.
Each of the three murder convictions came with a life sentence, reported the Associated Press.